It’s never too late to take up gardening – but you don’t have to be a novice to make mistakes! Here are some common blunders to avoid.

Blunder #1: Not planning.

Before rushing out to the garden centre, take the time to plan out your garden in detail. This will prevent a flawed “hodgepodge” design, as well as the tendency to buy more plants than you have space for.

Blunder #2: Overlooking poor soil conditions.

Before planting, prepare your soil. Plants generally do better in “loamy” soil that is rich in organic material and doesn’t drain too quickly. Compost enriches the soil, improves drainage and helps to fight off pests and diseases. Other tips:

— Once you’ve planted your garden, try to avoid walking on the soil. Every step compacts the soil, making it difficult for plants to grow roots. Instead create footpaths between rows.

— Avoid working the soil when it’s wet – or you’ll end up with clumps of hard-packed soil once it dries.

— Don’t overwork the soil. The best soil isn’t fine or powdery but consists of particles of varying sizes and shapes.


Blunder #3: Overcrowding shrubs and trees.

Remember that new shrubs and trees are immature when you buy them. Make sure to find out how much space they need to grow healthfully.

Blunder #4: Not planting in groups.

Avoid a “spotty” garden design by arranging like plants in groups. Most experts advise planting in odd-numbered groupings of three or more for the most impact.

Blunder #5: Planting in the wrong spot.

Take note of how much sun and shade you have in your garden at different times of the day – and be sure to buy plants that are right for those conditions.

Blunder #6: Purchasing poor quality plants.

Because many new gardeners don’t have the experience to recognize poor quality in plants, it’s important to buy from a reputable garden centre with knowledgeable staff to help you. Keep in mind that native plants tend to be easier to grow, have fewer pest and disease problems and require less watering.

Blunder #7: Planting too deep

The rule of thumb for container grown plants: put the plant into the soil at the level it grew in the pot.

Blunder #8: Over or under watering

The amount of water your plants needs is dependent on the weather. Experts say a weekly rainfall of about 2.5 cm (one inch) is ideal. If it is less than that, you’ll need to water. To measure rainfall, place a rain gauge in the garden. Other tips:

— Avoid frequent shallow waterings. This encourages roots to remain near the surface instead of reaching deep into the soil for moisture. Plants with deep roots can survive better in periods of drought.

— The best times to water your plants are early in the morning and early in the evening.

Blunder #9: Not keeping up with the weeding

While weeding is not the most popular of garden activities (understatement!), it’s important to get rid of the weeds to keep your plants healthy. Spreading some sort of mulch, such as wood chips, will help to reduce weed growth. Mulch also helps to maintain soil moisture and stabilize soil temperature.

Blunder #10: Not investing in good quality tools.

Buy the best quality tools you can afford. Cheap tools that bend or break will not only dampen your enthusiasm, but having to continually replace tools cost you more in the long run.


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